Be Hurricane Ready
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Hurricanes in Georgia – Are You Ready?
Now that you’ve read through Hurricane 101 (add link) and are now a hurricane expert, how do you get ready for a hurricane in your area? If you live in one of Georgia’s six coastal counties (Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, or McIntosh), read about how to be ready for a hurricane under Coastal Hurricane Readiness; If you don’t live along the coast, read the section on Inland Hurricane Readiness.
The key to being ready for a hurricane is simple: Be prepared, have a disaster plan, and stay informed about potential or ongoing hazards in your area. Learn more about how to be ready below.
Coastal Hurricane Readiness
If you live in coastal Georgia, you enjoy a lifestyle fit for royalty – beautiful beaches, barrier islands, great restaurants, and much more. Life along the Georgia coast is wonderful, but like many coastal areas, being ready to respond to a hurricane should be a way of life.
The next time a hurricane threatens the Georgia coast, you may need to evacuate to a safe inland location. To be prepared to evacuate, know the answers to these questions: 1) When should I leave? 2) Where should I go? 3) How will I get there? 4) What should I take with me?
1) When should I leave?
Leave Early: If a hurricane is coming, and the local officials tell you to evacuate, you must act quickly. It is recommended that you leave when the voluntary evacuation is ordered – leaving early will help you beat some the evacuating traffic. Remember to fill your gas tank before you leave – it is even better to do so during the day or two before an evacuation if you think a hurricane is coming. Many gas stations in coastal areas and along evacuation routes will run out of fuel when coastal populations evacuate.
The Evacuation Experts: In coastal Georgia, elected officials along with county emergency managers give evacuation orders. These key individuals are the experts and have special training to ensure that evacuation orders are issued with enough time for you and your loved ones to get to a safe location before the hurricane makes landfall.
Voluntary and Mandatory Evacuations: In coastal Georgia, two types of evacuation orders are issued: A voluntary evacuation and mandatory evacuation. Typically, voluntary evacuation orders are issued about 12 hours before a mandatory evacuation is ordered. The best time to leave is during the voluntary evacuation – roads tend to be less congested. If told to evacuate by your local elected officials, do so, evacuating could save your life.
Remember: Leave Early!
2) Where should I go?
Have a Plan: You should have a plan on where to go during an evacuation BEFORE a hurricane threatens. If possible, evacuate tens of miles, not hundreds. Any location or shelter outside of the area being evacuated should be safe.
Why Evacuate: Contrary to popular belief, people evacuate for the threat of storm surge, NOT hurricane winds. “Stick-built” homes, those that are not mobile of manufactured, are well-built structures that will likely give adequate protection from the hurricane-force winds. If you live in a mobile or manufactured home in any part of a coastal county, you will need to evacuate from your home. However, no structure is constructed sturdily enough to withstand the horrifying power of storm surge. If your area is being evacuated, it is because the hurricane experts believe that storm surge is possible in your area.
Did you know that a cubic yard of water (a box measuring three feet long on each side) weighs over 2000 pounds? Storm surge is extremely destructive because water is so heavy.
When evacuating, consider staying with family or friends or stay in a hotel. If you need to stay in an evacuation shelter, you may find a list of open shelters on the GEMA website or by listening to Georgia Public Radio – signs for these radio stations are posted along evacuation routes. Remember, evacuation shelters are life boats, not cruise ships. Living conditions in an evacuation shelter are minimal: enough to keep you safe from the hurricane and provide you with basic sustenance, but don’t expect 5-star meals or HD TV with pay-per-view. If you stay at a public shelter, you will need to bring bedding and other necessities.
Remember: Have a plan of where to go BEFORE a hurricane threatens.
3) How will I get there?
The Georgia Department of Transportation has designated many highways as evacuation routes to support citizens during a coastal evacuation. In fact, there are 11 official evacuation routes from the Georgia coast. For a list of official evacuation routes, visit the Georgia Navigator site by clicking here or check out the map below.
Click the Map to go to the Georgia Navigator site
Know Your Zone …
Did you know that each coastal county has evacuation zones? Every coastal county in Georgia has three evacuation zones (Evacuation Zones 1, 2, and 3) except Chatham County which has two (Evacuation Zones 1 and 2).
Not every hurricane that threatens the Georgia coast requires that the entire coastal county evacuate. Sometimes, only areas near the shore will need to evacuate. In order for you to know if YOU are being asked to evacuate, you need to know your evacuation zone. To find out, check the map for your county below. If you are unsure which zone you are in, err on the side of caution and assume you live in the one closer to the coast of contact your local emergency management agency.
Remember: Know your evacuation zone and your evacuation route.
4) What should I take with me?
Get a Ready Kit: The first thing you want to grab is your disaster supplies kit also known as a Ready Kit. A Ready Kit is a collection of supplies that you will need during a disaster such as a first aid kit, a flashlight, a radio, etc. Don’t have one yet? Click here to learn about what you need. You will need any supplies that you must have on a daily basis: personal hygiene products, medicines, etc. You will need to bring important documents and files that cannot be replaced. If heading for a public shelter, you will need bedding as well. Click Here for a printable version of a Ready Kit checklist.
Plan for your Pets: If you are evacuating with pets, make sure to bring food and water for them. If you are seeking a public shelter with your pets, you must do so at a “pet friendly” shelter – regular population shelters will not allow pets for safety and sanitation reasons. Also, only ordinary household pets will be allowed in a “pet friendly” shelter – no alligators for venomous cobras please. Click here for more information about preparing for your pets.
Secure Your Home: Make sure to secure your home. If you live in a mobile home, check your hurricane tie downs. Stow all of your outdoor patio furniture and yard items – these items become dangerous missiles in hurricane winds. Protect your windows with hurricane shutters or plywood. When windows in a home are breached during a hurricane, wind-driven rain and hurricane winds will do extensive damage. Make sure to turn off the gas to your home when you leave and turn your refrigerators and freezers to their coldest settings.
Finalize Arrangements: If you are evacuating with family, friends, or a neighbor, confirm arrangements with them and determine your destination before you leave. You should develop a communication plan so that if you are separated from your friends or family, you will know how to reach one another.
Inland Hurricane Readiness
First things first, hurricane are not just a coastal problem. People in Georgia tend to believe that hurricanes don’t affect Georgia or that hurricanes only affect coastal areas. The truth is, hurricanes and tropical storms affect inland areas of Georgia far more often than they affect the coastal areas. In 1994, Tropical Storm Alberto produced catastrophic flooding in Georgia producing the costliest natural disaster in Georgia’s history. In 1995, Hurricane Opal moved through Georgia producing widespread power outages, a peak wind gust of 79 mph in Marietta (north of Atlanta) and blew down trees in Unicoi State Park. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina produced 18 tornadoes in Georgia which is one of the highest number of tornadoes in 24 hours in our history. Compare that to the last hurricane to make landfall on the Georgia Coast: Hurricane David in 1979.
Hurricanes produce four hazards that can threaten life and property: hurricane winds, tornadoes, flooding, and storm surge. Inland areas of Georgia are susceptible to three of the four hazards: hurricane winds, tornadoes, and flooding.
Inland areas of Georgia are vulnerable to hurricanes that make landfall along the Georgia coast and along the Gulf coast.
Below is information that will assist you in becoming Ready for a hurricane or tropical storm in your inland community.
Get a Ready Kit: Disasters in Georgia can occur for many reasons, not just hurricanes or tropical storms (a house fire is one example). To be ready for any type of disaster, you need a disaster supplies kit – also known as a Ready Kit. A Ready Kit is a collection of supplies that you will need during a disaster such as a first aid kit, a flashlight, a radio, etc. Surprisingly, assembling a Ready Kit for you or your family is cheap (you probably already have most of the items scattered around your house) and takes little time. Don’t have a Ready Kit yet? Click here to learn about what you need. Click Here for a printable version of a Ready Kit checklist.
No Power? No Problem: The strong winds produced by a tropical storm, and particularly by a powerful hurricane can leave you without power for days. One component of any fully stocked Ready Kit is enough non-perishable food to last for three days. A camping stove or outdoor grill can be your best friend when the power is out. Make sure to have candles on hand and a flash lights with extra batteries.
Fear the Flood: History has taught us that inland flooding is the number one cause for loss of life in inland areas from tropical cyclones. If you live near a creek or river or other waterway or body of water, find out if you live in a flood zone. FEMA has made it easy, Click here to find out if you live in a flood zone. If you are traveling after the storm has passed and come upon a flooded road, turn around and don’t drown.
Did you know that one cubic yard of water (a box that measures 3 feet on all sides) weighs 2200 lbs? It only takes moving water that is one foot deep to push a car off the road and moving water that is a foot and a half deep can push a SUV off the road.
Do I Evacuate? The short answer is no. If you do not live in a storm surge-prone area (i.e. a coastal county), there is typically no need to evacuate. However, if you live in a flood prone area, or a county near the Florida border or very near coastal Georgia AND you live in housing that you do not feel is safe from the winds, by all means, go to a friend or neighbor’s home or a nearby public shelter. Evacuate tens of miles, not hundreds.
Hurricanes Create Tornadoes? Hurricanes are known for producing numerous tornadoes, particularly when they make landfall along the Gulf coast. When a tropical cyclone is approaching or passing overhead, monitor your All Hazards Weather Radio (with a battery backup of course) for Tornado Watches and Tornado Warnings. Remember, a WATCH means thunderstorms might produce tornadoes in your area and a WARNING means a tornado could form at any moment or IS happening already. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, take immediate action. Click here to learn about proper tornado safety actions from the Storm Prediction Center and click here for tornado safety actions from FEMA. You can download a guide to severe thunderstorms and tornados by clicking here.
Prepare, Plan, and Stay Informed
Ok, so you’ve prepared for disasters and hurricanes, now it’s time to plan and stay informed. Having a plan of action will ensure that you make the right decisions for yourself and your loved ones before, during, and after a disaster. Below are a few simple tips to creating a personal or family preparedness plan.
Have a Rally Point: During disasters that are local to your home such as a house fire, or your neighborhood, have a place to meet near your home so that you know everyone in your home is safe. The mail box, the corner stop sign, or the neighbors porch are all good choices.
Phone a Friend: Disasters happen when you least expect them, and certainly at the most inconvenient time possible – Murphy’s Law of Disasters. You may not be with your family or loved ones when disaster strikes. Have a friend or family member that lives far away from your area, or even better, outside of Georgia, that you and your family or loved ones can call in case you are separated and cannot reach one another on the phone. That way, you can all connect with one another thanks to someone far away from the disaster.
Practice Makes Perfect: Just like any activity or skill, practice makes perfect. Have your family or loved ones talk about your plan of action and practice it – no need to set off the fire alarm at 2:00 am, but blow the dust off the plan and practice it at least once or twice a year. For hurricanes, a good time to talk and practice your plan is in June, just before hurricane season begins so the information is fresh on your mind.
Be In The Know: The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from harm during a disaster is to be informed about what is going on. You can’t react to ongoing hazards … an approaching tornado or chemical release … if you don’t know it’s happening. One of the best ways to stay informed is to buy a NOAA Weather Radio, aka an All Hazards Radio. They are cheap ($20 to $30 for a basic model) and they will let you know with a loud and annoying tone alert that hazardous conditions are in your area … yes, in YOUR area – they are programmable and will only alert you to hazards in your area. Don’t let the name Weather Radio deter you, the tone alert will sound for any hazardous conditions in your area.
Now on Your FM Dial: Have a portable AM / FM radio with extra batteries so that when hazardous conditions arise, you can get additional information. There are also many other ways to get information: Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, local TV, cell phone text messages … etc. Make sure you know in advance your sources for official information so that you can get information when you need it … fast.
Ready Georgia: For more information about everything on this website, additional resources, and lots more, go to the Ready Georgia website and learn more: http://www.ready.ga.gov which is the official Georgia disaster preparedness website, or keep browsing our GEMA website for more facts about disasters.
Chatham County Hurricane Action Guide (http://www.chathamemergency.org/Documents/FINAL%20Hurricane%20Action%20Guide.pdf)